AN Ennis councillor has resigned from the company set up to deliver Ennis 2040 objectives having appealed to An Bord Pleanala against controversial plans for a €450 million data centre.
Councillor Johnny Flynn made the announcement he was stepping down from the Ennis 2040 (Strategic Development) Designated Activity Company (DAC) at the monthly meeting of the Ennis Municipal District.
The development of a data centre at Toureen plays a central role in the Ennis 2040 plan where it is included among a number of ‘Transformational Projects’ for the county capital.
Councillor Flynn told the meeting he did not want to “distract” from the Ennis 2040 DAC’s work after lodging his appeal against the development on the Tulla Road. He outlined that he has been engaged with the planning process for the site for a number of years including making a submission relating to its rezoning in 2019.
Last month Art Data Centre Campus in Ennis became the first to be approved following publication of the Government’s new data centre policy with developers claiming it will create between 400-450 permanent jobs when the data centre campus is fully operational. Up to 1,200 will be employed in construction and 600 jobs in support services. The plan has attracted significant opposition from local and national environmental groups.
Speaking when planning permission was granted Tom McNamara, CEO of Art Data Centres stated the project will be a key pillar of the Ennis 2040 Economic Plan for the area which was launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar in 2021.
Councillor Flynn’s appeal to An Bord Pleanala outlines “serious reservations” that mitigation measures planned as part of the development will not lead to a reduction or removal of “significant negative effects for these lands”.
Among the grounds for his appeal the councillor argues the plans are not in compliance with the Clare’s County Development Plan which states “Any proposed development shall adopt sustainable practice in terms of building design, materials , construction and operation.”
Councillor Flynn states, “The sustainable practice of “building design, materials, construction” only are dealt with in the proposed development’s Energy and Sustainability Statement.
“Whilst the elephant in the room ie the actual “operation” of the Data Centre itself has not been assessed or measured in terms of “sustainable practice” ie the sustainable impact of its operational fossil fuel primary energy use of 120 MW of gas and its possible resultant annual greenhouse gas emission of 650,000 tonnes.”
The councillor also insists the plan is also not in compliance with the Clare Renewable Energy Strategy, seeking that developers be asked for an outline of greenhouse gas emissions and to design and plan for an alternative sustainable green low carbon primary energy model.
He refers to “significant historical flooding” at Aughavadda Bridge with the R352 flooded for six days in 2009 “which indicated the lack of capacity” at the bridge to deal with fluvial and coastal flooding on the Spancilhill (Ballymacahill) river which is directly connected upstream to the subject site.
The councillor is urging that a detailed FRA be carried out at the Aughavadda Bridge and the Gaurus Bridge. He adds that an assessment of possible flood risk at the M18 culvert liaising with TII is also required “to assess if additional fluvial flooding capacity is required to ensure no future flooding of the M18”.
The appeal further states that Junction 13 of the motorway is “of inadequate layout to deal safely with the current traffic” in addition to junctions on the R352 into Ennis including Ballymacahill Cross and Corrovorrin.
He suggests TII construct new slip roads at Junction 13 with the proposed development and that junction improvements at Ballymachill and Corrovorrin be carried out.
Other grounds for appeal involve the existing water, waste water and water reservoir infrastructure while the councillor also claims the plans lack compliance with the Clare Local Economic & Community Plan.
The councillor’s appeal states that he would be in favour of the development of a data centre at this site subject to a number of conditions including, “It was powered by green low carbon energy with near zero greenhouse gas emissions; public health, in particular air quality, was protected to best international standards; biodiversity and environment was protected to best international standards; water, flooding and road safety risks were resolved to best international standards; and energy grid and energy security risks were resolved to best international standards.”
Making the announcement that he was resigning from the Ennis 2040 DAC this week he stated he would continue to support its work and he wished the team well.
“He voiced particular support for the aim of Ennis 2040 to develop wetlands to the east of Ennis saying “this is probably one of the most important projects so Ennis can be one of the first climate adapted towns.”